Over two hundred Lithuanian folk dancers representing five countries are bringing an unforgettable afternoon of entertainment to Cleveland on June 17, 2023, at the Berkman Hall Auditorium of Cleveland State University. The event, called Juventus IV, is the fourth folk dance festival sponsored by the Cleveland Lithuanian folk dance group ”Švyturys” (“Beacon”), now celebrating its 20th anniversary. Juventus IV will include groups from Sweden, Lithuania, Argentina, Canada, and the USA.
In many cultures, folk dance themes are representations of life, nature, work, celebrations, love, and the storied past. These universal themes will be brought to life in a whirlwind of music and dancers, and a kaleidoscope of colors and folk costumes. The Argentinian group “Nemunas” will showcase a dance based on the beloved lapwing bird “Pempel”; the Stockholm-based “Baltija” dancers will draw the audience the high-spirited dance from the town of Gumbinė. Two groups from Lithuania – Kaunas-based “Ratelinis” and “Suvartukas” from Plungė – will present dances based on work typically done in farms and villages: “Puodžiai” – Potters, “Kubilas” – the barrel, while a dance illustrating how threshing separates grain from the stalk after harvest, “Lelenderis” or the “Kūlimo šokis”, will be danced by the “Spindulys” group from Lemont, Illinois. “Three Threads” or “Trys siūleliai”, danced by the girls of “Grandis” from Chicago, IL, will tell the story of how flax is prepared, thread is spun and woven into cloth. Of course, after the work is done – there are celebratory dances: “Galalių gegužinė” (“Picnic at Galaliai”), “The Rascals’ Polka” (“Šelmių polka”), and “Gyvataras”, a traditional dance in which the Cleveland “Švyturys” dancers will be joined by the “Suktinis” group from Chicago, IL. “Linksmapolkė”, or “The Merry Polka” will feature some of the youngest dancers, 3-7 years old.
After the Juventus IV performance, the dancers and their friends will gather at a banquet with special appearances by Lithuanian singing sensation Jeronimas Milius, folk songs accompanied by the “Kaimo Kapela” – a folk music instrumental group from Kaunas, and much more singing and dancing to the tunes of local musician and radio personality Augis Dicevičius.
The groups from Cleveland, Argentina, Lithuania and Sweden will then travel to Toronto, where they will be showcased in a festival celebrating midsummer – the feast of St. John – “Gintarinės Joninės”.
“Švyturys”, led by Aušrinė Širvinskienė and Eglė Žukauskienė, was formed in 2003, and has had hundreds of dancers pass through its ranks, from the youngest 3-year-olds to the student and adult groups which participated in the December 2022 South American dance festival in Argentina.
Folk dance festivals with thousands of dancers are periodically held in Lithuania and in Lithuanian communities throughout the world. Many dancers form friendships and eagerly await more occasions for sharing their folk dancing enjoyment, camaraderie, and the opportunity to experience new and old folk dances. “Švyturys” invites everyone to join the Juventus IV festival on June 17th and experience an afternoon of exhilarating dance and music!